Top critical review
Caution to Readers: Murky Theology
Reviewed in the United States on January 21, 2016
The premise of the book is that we are stuck in anger, discontentment, fear, overwhelmedness, sadness and "as long as [we] are privately fighting and losing inside, [God] is not getting a thing done through or in [us]." Jennie wants us to overcome those emotions (or at least feel them less deeply) in order to achieve our purpose. However, I believe God does lots through us and in us while we're hurting and confused, and that's the beauty of the gospel! Not only is the premise of "Stuck" flawed, but Jennie goes on to make points that are very troubling and ultimately damaging to her readers. I strongly caution you against choosing this book for a group study.
In the section on anger, Jennie describes Elizabeth, a 16 year-old girl who feels angry that she lives in an abusive and dysfunctional home. Elizabeth expresses to an older, Christian woman that her home life simply not fair. Jennie praises the mentor's response as healing. The mentor says, "You're right. You don't deserve this life. You deserve hell and death, and so do I. But God's gracious love for us provided a Savior who took our sins and died for them. He didn't deserve death, and we don't deserve life. It is God's grace that we have life at all." Woah. While there is truth here, this is a heartless and cold response to a child victim. It is dismissive of Elizabeth's pain and shames her for her ingratitude, rather than her family for harming her. This is not the heart of Jesus, who throughout the Gospels is kind, caring and condemning of abuse. Jesus offers love, hope and restoration; He does not shame.
(Jennie later clarifies victims of abuse should seek help. It's good that she clarifies, but I also find it troubling that her anecdotes and advice put her in a position where such a blunt disclaimer is necessary.)
The section on contentment is also concerning. Jennie asserts that "oftentimes depression and discontentment rise out of our expectations for happy, fulfilling, short lives here on earth rather than the hope of eternity with God in heaven." This is simply untrue; depression, a serious medical condition, is not the result of having unrealistic expectations of happiness. Jennie goes on to praise the people of Denmark, whom studies show are content because "they [hold] low expectations of their lives. As believers in God, we should be the same way." Jennie suggests we should hope for little in this life. These points aren't representative of the gospel I love - the one that calls us to grieve injustice deeply, bring our raw emotions to God, and hope steadfastly for healing and reconciliation here on earth!
Tread carefully, friends!